Brexiteers accused of using firearms debate for 'proxy row' over EU withdrawal

Ashley Cowburn

Prominent Brexiteers have been accused of attempting to hijack a firearms debate in parliament in a "proxy row" over Britain's departure from the European Union.

It comes after MPs from both the Conservative and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - hostile to Theresa May's Brexit plans - tabled an amendment to a government bill aimed at reclassifying certain firearms.

While the bill has no relevance to Brexit, critics have suggested any potential rebellion on Monday evening could be interpreted as a show of strength against Downing Street.

The proposed change has the support of dozens of Conservative MPs and aims at preventing a government-imposed ban on high-energy rifles, "over 13,600 joules at the muzzle".

It has the support of prominent Brexiteers, including the chair of the European Research Group of backbench Tory MPs, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Steve Baker, and the former Brexit secretary David Davis.

The DUP's Brexit spokesperson, Sammy Wilson, has also signed the amendment alongside the Eurosceptic Labour MP Kate Hoey.

Responding to the reports the amendment had Brexiteer's support, Louise Haigh, the shadow policing and crime minister, said: "If you think hijacking an important firearms debate for a proxy row over Brexit is acceptable, you're not fit for public office."

The change to the legislation was table by the Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clinton-Brown, but his office denied the amendment had anything to do with Brexit when approached by The Independent.

Ms Hoey added on her Twitter account: "Nothing to do with Brexit. Numerous Remain supporters have signed probing amendment."

Monday's debate follows the government's decision last week to abandon a scheduled time for the bill in the Commons amid reports of a backbench rebellion on the same amendment.

Ministers had claimed the debate was scrapped due to the time given to the prime minister's earlier update to the Commons on the state of the Brexit negotiations.

Last week, Ms Haigh said the rifles of "enormous and destructive power" should be banned and urged to Tory MPs to "come to their senses" and "stop playing politics with public safety".